Office Personalities: Introverts and Extroverts in the Workplace

Developing a team of loyal, inspired, high-performing employees and creating an engaged work environment where your staff feels valued and appreciated requires lots of purposeful actions on your part as their leader. One important component to creating an exceptional team of employees is understanding that there are distinctly-different personalities and work preferences between the introverts on your staff and the extroverts. “Introversion and extroversion go to the heart of who a person is: how they work, how they live, and how they interact,” shared Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, in a 2015 article for Harvard Business Review. Here are 3 tips to create an environment that maximizes each of your staff members particular unique strengths and their diverse approaches to work.

Know the difference

While extroverts are risk-takers and great multi-taskers who are quick to embrace their work assignments, they’re also noted for making rash decisions. They think out loud and are gregarious; they thrive on brainstorming ideation sessions and get inspired at social events. Introverts approach their work much more deliberately and mindfully, working on one project at a time. Although introverts might show up at your company party for a few minutes (and are pretty well-practiced at “acting” like they could be extroverts), they’re secretly eager to head back to the serenity of their home to rub their dog’s belly and finish that great book they started.  To help you further differentiate between the two personalities, ask these questions in one-on-one sessions and in group meetings:
  • How many meetings would you like to attend in your ideal workday?
  • How do you prefer to get your project done (alone or with a team? Individual components or taking on all the sections at once?)
  • What do you do to reinvigorate your energy? (nap, play hockey, soak in a tub, gather with friends at the local watering hole?)

Purposefully structure your team’s day

Since you now know that the introverts on your staff really don’t like having to attend or contribute to lots of meetings (even though your extroverts look forward to the face-to-face time with their colleagues), meet both groups in the middle. Don’t schedule a staff meeting at 9AM; instead, set it for 1PM. This way, your introverts can get their work done, uninterrupted, in the morning, and your extroverts can look forward to the opportunity to share their ideas with others post-lunch. To create the overall best dynamic at work, however, create an environment where your extroverts are free to share their thoughts with others when they feel compelled to do so, and your introverts are free to go outside for a few minutes to recharge or visit the local café to remove themselves from the group setting.

Create Diverse Work Spaces

While the open concept in a workplace has its benefits, it’s important to also include specified quite zones and private little inviting nooks and crannies where introverts can gravitate toward to be alone and get their work done. In addition, come up with a system where your employees can signal they’re not to be interrupted (without having to say so). To accommodate your extroverts, create spaces where scheduled and random encounters can take place, such as lounges, communal tables, and designated break areas. While there are lots of other strategies you can incorporate to create the absolute best work environment for your diverse staff, being mindful of how you structure the workday and create work spaces that encourage optimal performance are a few ways to demonstrate your understanding of the differences between introverts and extroverts.